Take a trip with Siri

Rod Ch­ester takes to the road to see how the well-con­nected Ap­ple side­kick han­dles the long haul

Herald Sun - Switched On - - GADGETS -

Siri might pass muster as a ca­sual ac­quain­tance but noth­ing puts a re­la­tion­ship to the test like a 2000km road trip with Ap­ple CarPlay.

And af­ter driv­ing from Mel­bourne to Bris­bane with Siri as a side­kick, it seems CarPlay doesn’t yet live up to the Mae West test. When it’s good, it’s very, very good. But when it’s bad, well, it’s just bad.

Tech an­a­lyst Gart­ner pre­dicts there will be 250 mil­lion in­ter­net-con­nected cars on the road in the next five years, with Ap­ple and Google tak­ing their tra­di­tional battle to the dash­board with CarPlay and An­droid Auto.

Some car mak­ers have com­mit­ted to ship­ping with Ap­ple’s CarPlay (BMW, Ford, Mit­subishi, Subaru, and Toy­ota), some have com­mit­ted to An­droid Auto (Honda, Audi, Jeep, and Nis­san), and some have com­mit­ted to both.

So while your next new car might come fit­ted with a plug-and-play smart­phone sys­tem, in the mean­time you can try CarPlay with a unit such as the Pi­o­neer AVIC-F60DAB.

The unit has two home screens. One is the Pi­o­neer dis­play that gives you ac­cess to its nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, FM and dig­i­tal ra­dio, and has in­puts for dual re­vers­ing cam­eras.

The other is the Ap­ple CarPlay that shows the limited apps that cur­rently make up Ap­ple’s car dis­play.

While you can link your phone to the Pi­o­neer unit us­ing Blue­tooth, to use CarPlay you need to plug your phone in to a USB port that can be in­stalled in the glove box or con­sole.

What does CarPlay of­fer that an­other car unit doesn’t? Siri is, in part, the an­swer. It means you can op­er­ate your phone with voice con­trols be­yond just an­swer­ing calls.

With CarPlay, you find your­self speak­ing to your car in a loud clear voice, say­ing, “Hey Siri, I need petrol,” or lis­ten­ing as Siri reads your text mes­sages.

For Siri to get you from A to B, you need to use Ap­ple Maps. That’s handy be­cause you can search for a des­ti­na­tion even be­fore you get in a car.

The down­side is that Ap­ple Maps, although far im­proved, is not per­fect. In Can­berra, it was sup­posed to di­rect us to a par­tic­u­lar bike hire busi­ness but in­stead di­rected us to an ap­par­ently ran­dom spot on the Aus­tralian Na­tional Uni­ver­sity cam­pus.

But all GPS nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems have prob­lems. Google Maps also got us lost when look­ing for a wind­screen re­place­ment firm, and the Pi­o­neer nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, at one point, couldn’t lo­cate the high­way.

Your iPhone and CarPlay work as con­nected screens. When CarPlay is show­ing a route on a map, the app on your iPhone shows step-by-step di­rec­tions.

Siri is good at re­spond­ing to di­rect ques­tions.

We used it to find the near­est petrol sta­tion and a Thai restau­rant, all with­out the need to take our hands off the wheel. When Siri does stuff up, per­haps we shouldn’t shoot the mes­sen­ger but won­der about the in­for­ma­tion she is read­ing. Four hours af­ter leav­ing Mel­bourne, we asked Siri for the near­est Mac­cas. Siri sug­gested a Mel­bourne lo­ca­tion that differed no­tably to the forth­com­ing gi­ant bill­board promis­ing a Golden Arches in 10 min­utes.

CarPlay doesn’t make a long road trip shorter but it can, in some ways, make it eas­ier.

And in­stead of some­one ask­ing you if you’re there yet, with Siri you’re the ones ask­ing the ques­tions hands free. FROM $1999 / PI­O­NEER.COM.AU

“When it’s good, it’s very, very good. When it’s bad,well, it’s just bad”

AVIC-F60DAB and (be­low) the Ap­ple

CarPlay screen.

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